Judge Tosses Out Foreign YouTube Lawsuits; Points Out Basic Copyright Law [Updated]

from the you-would-think-their-lawyers-would-notice-this dept

Admittedly, parts of copyright law are quite complicated, but there are some basics that are rather simple and straightforward: such as that you cannot sue for statutory or punitive damages if you haven't registered your copyrights with the US copyright office. So, when the Premiere Football League sued Google/YouTube for hosting some videos of matches two years ago, I assumed at the very least that it had registered its copyrights in the US. Apparently not. A judge has tossed out pushed back on the Premier League's attempt to get higher damages awards, along with some other foreign claimants' for not being covered by US copyright law. You would have thought this was something the Premier League's lawyers would have noticed before filing the lawsuit. Update: Eric Goldman has a lot more details on the specifics of the case, which the original News.com article was a bit misleading. Definitely make sure you read Goldman's post to understand the mixed nature of the ruling. Also, based on this we're updating some of the points in the post to clarify. Thanks to everyone who pointed out some of the specifics. Update 2: After discussing this with a few different lawyers (as per usual -- none of them agree with each other!) it seemed best to just point people to Eric's analysis of this decision. Once again, this is what's great about using this blog as a conversation, helping us all to learn. Thanks to everyone who chimed in and contributed (whether via comments or email).

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  1. identicon
    JP_Fife, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 1:58am

    Perhaps not, being UK (most likely English) lawyers they'd know that in the UK copyright is automatic with no need for registration. No doubt they should have checked the situation in other countries but the English do have some funny characteristics, including the ones which assumes that everyone likes them and they are the masters of all they survey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    big al, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 4:30am

    I assume this is a reciprocal arrangement? All of a sudden I feel no guilt (being a non-US citizen) about 'pirating' anything not available in my own country. However, as with most US policies I fully expect to find it's 'one law for us, another for you'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 5:12am


    'one law for us, another for you'

    This is applicable where ever you go.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 5:36am

    Re: Re:


    Also to complicate things more in the US, sometimes you do get an automatic copyright (usually with written work) so the lawyers could of just been confused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    MC, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 5:46am

    Bern Convention

    This is against the Bern Convention, which US is a part. It mentions that the only requirement to enforce a copyright is to have the name the owner in the work, and that's all. No registration is required. Below is the relevant part of the Bern Convention:

    "In order that the author of a literary or artistic work protected by this Convention shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be regarded as such, and consequently be entitled to institute infringement proceedings in the countries of the Union, it shall be sufficient for his name to appear on the work in the usual manner. This paragraph shall be applicable even if this name is a pseudonym, where the pseudonym adopted by the author leaves no doubt as to his identity"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Mechwarrior, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 5:52am

    Re: Bern Convention

    A football game is neither literary or artistic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    silentsteel (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:01am

    Re: Bern Convention

    That is very likely the case, but AFAIK, there is not a situation where a treaty or convention trumps the U. S. Constitution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    MC, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:06am

    Re: Re: Bern Convention

    It is true, a football game is neither literary or artistic, but the transmission of s football game is, or at least, it is considered to be in all countries in the world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:07am


    I wonder if us here in the US adopted this assumption... however I do like to piss off British people! They actually have colorful insults! Oh how I wish I had their level of working vocabulary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 6:31am

    You are wrong, wrong, wrong. They can sue without a registration because the works are non-U.S. The decision was about statutory damages which they don't get; instead they have to prove their damages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Michael L. Slonecker, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:37am

    It would be helpful to have a copy of the purported court decision. Any link?

    The law is not as complicated as some might believe, and applies with equal force to domestic and foreign authors. However, there are requirements under the law that must be met for a court to have jurisdiction over a copyright infringement action, as well as requirements in order for a rights holder to be able to avail itself of the statutory damages provision. No registration as a general rule means no lawsuit. Not registering a copyright claim within the time set by statute limits damages to only actuals.

    The formalities existing before the adoption of the new copyright act in 1976 (and as subsequently amended) have been loosened significantly, but fortunately they have not been eliminated entirely.

    To practice copyright law in a competent manner one must have an intimate familiarity with Title 17. Unfortunately, this point all too often is lost on certain members of the bar who maintain a general practice and only on occasion dabble in copyright law. Of course, it is their clients who pay the price in these circumstances.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 8:53am


    Statutory and punitive damages, not the suit per se and not actual damages:

    http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2007cv03582/30557 4/133/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Decision

    So the post was wrong... sometimes its better to ask someone who know and request clarification instead of blaming and criticizing lawyers, which usually happens in this blog (I still love it though...!!!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 8th, 2009 @ 3:32pm

    Re: Re: Decision

    Yup. Once I read Eric Goldman's take on it, I went back and updated the post to clarify. The original article at News.com was a bit misleading, and I fell for it. Sorry. But definitely read Eric's analysis to get a more thorough take on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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